For our next study in Mark, we're turning to chapter 10 of the gospel, and beginning to read at verse 1 - and I've entitled my message today: 'The Sanctity of Marriage and The Security of Children'.
So verse 1, then, of Mark chapter 10, and we're reading through to verse 16: "And he", that is, the Lord Jesus Christ, "arose from thence, and cometh into the coasts of Judæa by the farther side of Jordan: and the people resort unto him again; and, as he was wont", or accustomed, "he taught them again. And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting", or testing, "him. And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you? And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away. And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter. And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery".
"And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them".
Now at this point, in verse 1 of chapter 10, we see that the Lord Jesus has completed His ministry in Galilee. He has left Capernaum and come to the area which is called Transjordan, Perea is another name for it, on the East side of Jordan - and He is still on His way to Jerusalem, we see that from verse 32 of this chapter. Now, it is important to note that this district that the Lord Jesus is now in is ruled by Herod Antipas, which may explain why Pharisees here in this passage try to trap the Lord Jesus by asking Him a question on divorce - because, you remember in Mark chapter 6, John the Baptist had been murdered because he preached against Herod's adulterous marriage.
But this issue of divorce and remarriage was more than a political one, it was an extremely controversial subject among the Jewish Rabbis - and the Lord Jesus would have been aware, as were they and the whole of the listening gathering, that whatever answer He would have given, it would have displeased some school of thought regarding the subject. I believe it was in the intent and the heart of the Pharisees that the possibility may be that they would trap the Lord Jesus to such an extent that there would be an opportunity for the authorities to arrest Him. Indeed, I think that's indicated in the verbs, 'the Pharisees', it says, 'kept asking Him', kept asking Him over and over, to provoke Him into saying something that might incriminate Him.
Now the reason why this was such a controversial subject was, there were two particular schools of thought regarding a portion of Scripture in the Old Testament, and that was Deuteronomy 24 and verses 1 and 2. Let's read that together for a moment, Deuteronomy 24 verses 1 and 2, Moses wrote: 'When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife'. The two views over divorce really revolved around the interpretation of this phrase 'some uncleanness' - what does that mean? Incidentally, it is significant that Deuteronomy 24 is the only Old Testament portion that states grounds or procedures for divorce - and that's why these two schools in particular homed in to this portion of Scripture.
Now followers of a Rabbi named Hillel were lenient in their interpretation of 'some uncleanness', and they said that you could divorce, a man could divorce his wife for any reason - and that's indicated in Matthew 19 and verse 3. Any reason really meant any reason, even the burning of food, a wife walking around with her hair down, or speaking to other men on the street, or perhaps speaking disrespectfully of her husband's parents in her husband's presence - imagine that ladies! A wrong word about your mother-in-law could find you thrown out of your home and on the street! Rabbi Akiba, who was of Hillel's school, went even further - he believed the phrase here in Deuteronomy 24, 'find no favour in his eyes', meant that a man could divorce his wife if he found another woman more beautiful than her - imagine it!
That was Rabbi Hillel, a lenient interpretation of 'some uncleanness'. But then there was the other school, Rabbi Shammai, and he was more strict in his interpretation of 'some uncleanness'. He believed it referred to some premarital sin, or something indecent in sexual conduct. Now let me say regarding this that neither Shammai, nor Hillel, nor any Rabbi believed that Moses meant 'adultery' when he said 'some uncleanness'. Now that's important, because the law of Moses was clear that adultery was to be punished by stoning. Now the death penalty, of course, couldn't be enforced under the Roman legal system in the days of the Lord Jesus, and so it appears that in Jewish practice that death as a penalty for adultery had been substituted by divorce.
Now, then the Lord Jesus, to answer these two schools, and this question intended to trap Him, seeks Himself - with His divine authority - to explain Deuteronomy 24. He begins in verse 5 here of Mark chapter 10: 'Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept'. The Lord is saying that Moses gave divorce, this law, he allowed it because of the sinfulness of the human heart. As we look at the Deuteronomy 24 passage, we see clearly that this was permitted to protect the wife from being discarded like a piece of useless furniture at her husband's whim. This was to allow the woman to have a genuine divorce in order to be able to marry again. You see, no man would want to marry her if she was just a castaway; and she would be left, in the society of the day, defenceless and destitute, a social outcast, and even treated like a harlot. This was allowed, in Deuteronomy 24, to protect wives - but the Lord Jesus was wanting to emphasise that this was permitted because of the hardness of your heart, this was not God's highest thought regarding marriage.
So our Lord begins to expound God's highest thoughts regarding the marriage institution in verse 6 right down to verse 13: 'But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder'. This is God's plan and purpose for the marriage institution, whatever man has turned it into.
Now some of you may be thinking: 'Why address such a thorny subject?'. There are a number of reasons why we must address this subject, controversial though it is. The first reason is simply that the Bible address is that, and if we ever get to the stage when we feel we can pick and choose at whim the truths we want to consider, well, we are in real trouble. Also the expository approach to preaching the word of God doesn't permit me to skip over uncomfortable and difficult portions of Scripture, that's why it's a good practice to preach God's word from verse to verse and chapter to chapter.
So the Bible addresses this subject, we should address it - but secondly: our Lord addressed this subject and, as we see, it was equally as thorny an issue in His day, if not arguably more of an issue. Not only does the Bible address it and our Lord addresses it, but it is necessary that we address it, I believe, for the benefit of society and the church of Jesus Christ. Society and the church desperately need to hear a certain sound, they need clear guidance in this area of marriage and divorce. Presently, as far as I can see in society and in the church, this whole subject is fraught with confusion and unnecessary complexity.
Consider first of all the impact that divorce and remarriage has had on society. The preamble to the marriage vows that I give from time to time when engaging in that wonderful occasion, one of them goes like this: 'It was ordained', marriage, 'for the welfare of human society, which can be strong and happy only where the marriage bond is held in honour'. How true those words are! Because God's order is being rejected in our present contemporary society, we are beginning to see society crumble on every hand. So we need to address this for the sake of society, which has rejected the institution God gave in marriage - and because of that, the welfare of human society is threatened. It can only be strong and happy where the marriage bond is held in honour.
But something else, turning to the church now: if we have a lax view of marriage, its sanctity, and the cause of divorce and remarriage, there is an impact on the witness of the church of Jesus Christ. Now this is staggering to consider: that statistics from every source tell us that Christians are more or less clones of our present-day secular culture. In some cases, believe it or not, Christians are even worse in their lifestyles. I was staggered to find out that, according to George Barna's research, born again Christians are now slightly more likely to divorce than the general population - that may well be a survey of America, but nevertheless it is true that 27% of Christians are more likely to divorce than 23% for the general population. Now, is that not a disturbing revelation? As society has grown more comfortable with divorce, so have a great number of Christians - and, if it proves nothing else, surely it betrays at least a serious misunderstanding in the minds of God's people regarding the sanctity of marriage?
We need to address this subject for the sake of society and the church, but also for the reason that divorce has such a serious impact on children's lives. There's a new survey of Britain's under tens that shows that if children ruled the world, the first thing they would do is ban divorce! This was in the public media recently. There was a poll conducted by Luton First for the UK's fourth National Kid's Day. The survey was of 1600 children and it has been running annually for the past four years, but this is the first time that divorce featured at the top of the list of things that children wanted to ban. Divorce is pushing out, therefore, a ban on knives and guns - which had the top spot for the past two years running - and the only conclusion we can take from that is that divorce is increasingly affecting the well-being of children in society.
The Christian Institute reflected on this survey, and also added the fact that the survey reveals that 80% of these children said that they would probably marry - it's interesting when you consider their aversion to divorce - and, when they grow up, two thirds said that they wanted to have children. So the problem in the child's mind is not the concept, which is God-given, of marriage and procreation; but this human invasion, because of the hardness of mankind's heart, to divorce and the carnage it has caused in children's minds and hearts because of it. Earlier last year results from the National Child Development Study were released showing that changing attitudes toward divorce have in no way diminished its impact on children's lives. That particular study tracked 1700 people born in the same week in 1958, and compares their lives with those born earlier and those born later. A researcher involved with the study, Kathleen Kiernan, said, and I'm quoting: 'It might be expected that as divorce has become more commonplace, its effects might have reduced. Yet a comparison with children born in 1970 shows that this is not the case'. The report continued that: 'Divorce has', I quote, 'repercussions that reverberate through childhood and into adulthood. Children from disrupted families tend to do less well in school and subsequent careers than their peers. They are also more likely to experience the break-up of their own partnerships'. Now it doesn't naturally follow on that these things should happen, but the potential is increased because of divorce.
Now a separate report was released in April 2008 by the 'Good Childhood Inquiry', and it warned that family breakdown was a major cause of harm to children's mental health. One of the authors of the report warned that it's not just the event of family breakdown itself, but the life that has to be lived afterwards that causes harm. Stephen Scott, Professor of Child Health and Behaviour at the Institute of Psychiatry in King's College, London, described how family breakdown can harm children's mental health, and he said, again I quote: 'It is as much about the problems arising from family breakdown as the event itself. Young people don’t like being in different homes on different days of the week and get upset by strife between their parents'.
Now, isn't it interesting that by divine design and inspiration these two issues - the sanctity of marriage and the security of children - are put together in Mark chapter 10 verses 1 to 16? They are certainly connected, and we need to address it - though it's a thorny subject - because the Bible does, because our Lord did, because society and the church need to hear about it because of the impact on society, the impact on the witness of the church, and the impact on children's lives.
Let's address for a moment: why then is it such a hot potato if so much is at stake? Well, one of the reasons why Christians and preachers avoid this subject is, incidentally, similar to why it was controversial in the days of the Lord Jesus. What I mean is: there are so many different schools of thought regarding it, and so many godly Christians and exceptional Bible scholars differ in interpretation concerning divorce and remarriage - and therefore they just avoid it. It has to be also said that treatments of this subject, whether in written or spoken form, mostly revolve around this great question of: 'When is it OK to divorce or remarry?'. Now that is certainly an issue, and I've dealt with it before, but my great fear is that when we get taken up with the issue of 'When is it OK to divorce or marry?', we're in danger of missing the whole point of what Christ was teaching! Indeed, we can actually fall into the pit of the Pharisees that they found themselves constantly in.
Tom Hovestol, in his book 'Extreme Righteousness', a study of the Pharisees, commenting on the Lord's warning against oath-taking in the Sermon on the Mount, I believe really gets the nub of this problem of divorce. He says: 'We live in a culture in which promises and commitments, even solemnly made ones, are routinely broken. Our wedding ceremonies, baptism rituals, infant dedications, and church membership covenants, to varying degrees, include pious oaths which we cavalierly break. Every divorce', he says, 'is a major violation of the promise 'Till death us do part'. However, we spend most of our theological energy debating when it is OK to break our promises'. He says: 'We are like the Pharisees, seeking loopholes. We are masters at the art of evasion' - and I agree with that! Whatever your opinion of divorce and remarriage might be, we are asking the question, 'How far can I go?'. Yet the question we ought to be asking as Christians and members of the kingdom of God is, 'How like Christ can I be?'. Does this highlight a moral and spiritual duplicity in our Christian lives?
Now, let me make a number of comments which are essentially practical, and I hope compassionate, caveats that must be acknowledged before we comment on this thorny subject. The first is this: divorce in our modern age, certainly in our nation, can be foisted on a person against their will. Therefore everyone cannot be held accountable for the breakup of their marriage through divorce. Secondly, it has to also be said that I am not, and do not want to be perceived as, condemning those who have been divorced and remarried. They are not outcasts, they have not committed the unpardonable sin, nor is divorce an act that puts them beyond the support of the local church. Now, I don't claim to have all the answers to the practical questions that divorce and remarriage raise in this modern age for the church, but one thing I am sure of is that the grace of God in Christ is able to cover all our sin - hallelujah! 'Every sin and blasphemy may be forgiven of men', the Lord Jesus said - therefore we must never judge others with a self-righteous attitude, because we're all effectively adulterers in our hearts. We must always endeavour to minister to the wounded - and that includes the divorced - and not call unclean that which God has called clean.
But a third acknowledgement which I feel must be made is that there are problems in knowing how to apply biblical principles to some modern day scenarios. That is a reality that, if you've ever been involved in pastoral experience, you will know too well. Yet, those things being said, we must always set forth the biblical ideal. You see, this is what can happen: we are so afraid of offending someone that we keep quiet when the ideal of how God made marriage, what He ordained it for in His plan and purpose, is missed - hence such a high divorce rate among Christian people.
'Well', you say, 'what is that ideal then?'. Well, let's try and keep to Mark chapter 10, because you will know that this is the gospel of the cross, this is the gospel of the Suffering Servant, and so the context of this teaching on marriage and divorce is the context of the cost of the kingdom of God, which is so great! You know He's been telling us about that so much, the Lord Jesus, and the disciples, He has been revealing to them about His cross, and they couldn't get that into their heads, that He should die. The problem was that they couldn't understand how they should also die on the cross. He not only spoke of His cross, but their cross, and how they had to deny themselves, take up the cross, and follow Him every day of their lives. The cost of the kingdom, the cost of discipleship - but what the Lord is doing here in Mark 10 is showing us that there is a great cost even in the area of our closest human relationships.
So the Lord says: 'Well, Moses may have allowed divorce because of the human hardness of your heart' - i.e. the failure to understand God's purpose in marriage - 'But I'm making it clear', the Lord Jesus is saying, 'I'm making it plain that the kingdom of God, that is now near to you in Me, demands lifelong faithfulness to one partner'. He's saying that that is God's original plan of creation, and that's where He goes back to creation - and the fall didn't undo that original purpose. He says in verse 5, effectively, that Moses only permitted divorce, he didn't command it as the Pharisees asserted. Now, I know the phrase 'command' is used there, and I think it has got more to do with the legislation all revolving around this bill of divorcement - but what the Lord is saying is that this was a concession because of your sinfulness, your hardness of heart, and it was chiefly to protect the women that you would have been so cruel to.
Now, of course, in our modern age in the church there is a great debate over the so-called 'exception clause' - in Matthew 5:32 it is found - that some would say is the legitimate reason why a divorce can be given. 'But I say unto you', the Lord Jesus said, 'That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication', except for the cause of fornication, 'causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery'. The same is found in Matthew 19 and verse 9. Of course, some believe that this is not adultery after marriage, this was premarital uncleanness during the betrothal period, and I have spoken on that myself in relation to Matthew's gospel to the Jews. But there are others who believe it is adultery, or some think it's not just one case of unfaithfulness, but a persistent lifestyle of unfaithfulness. But the point I'm making is: there's such a divergence of opinion over what this exception clause might be - but can I say to you that even if it does mean 'sexual unfaithfulness' as a grounds for divorce and remarriage, it is not a command, and it cannot be interpreted as a command. It is only permitted - either way, whatever view you take - divorce is never mandatory. I think this is what we are losing, the wood for the trees. The ideal of the kingdom for a broken marriage, a broken relationship, is not divorce but sacrificial reconciliation in the spirit of forgiveness! 'Oh!', you say, 'That's a high standard for trust that has been lost and unfaithfulness that has occurred in the most intimate relationships!'. Well, that is true, it is a high cost, but this kingdom that you are now part of asks a high cost of you.
I'm concerned about how quickly Christians run to the divorce courts these days. I don't underestimate the pain and the tragedy, and I'm not condoning some who are living in abusive relationships - there is a way out of that, I acknowledge that, and there should be a way out of that. But other Christians, even with differing views of divorce, are saying - Kent Hughes, for instance - 'Too often men and women eagerly pounce on the infidelity of their mate as the opportunity to get out of a relationship they haven't liked anyway. It's so easy to look for a way out instead of working through the problem'. Are you beginning to feel, as we go through this passage, the cost of the kingdom to our personal relationships? It's so great and, in fact, according to Matthew 19 verse 10, the disciples concluded after hearing this teaching of the Lord Jesus that it would be better to remain unmarried than to face marriage which, what they were perceiving at that moment, was a death sentence - you couldn't get out of it.
The seriousness of the issue is highlighted in the fact that, both here in Mark 10 and in Matthew, the Lord Jesus called remarriage after divorce - whether by a husband or by a wife - plain adultery from the point of view of God's kingdom. Verse 11 here says: 'Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her'. Herod is the illustration, is he not, of this? So applicable where the Lord is at this very moment in the region where He is ruling. In verse 12 He turns it round to the female side, and He says: 'If a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery'. Now that's interesting, because women in Judaism were not allowed to divorce their husbands, and so this seems to be for the benefit of the Roman readers of Mark's gospel.
Now you can imagine how, if this was radical to the twelve disciples, and it was, how radical this would have sounded in the lax atmosphere - morally speaking - of Rome! It's no surprise, therefore, how radical it sounds to people today in our permissive society, when old moral conventions are breaking down all around us! Now, it is true that in Matthew there seems to be an exception clause in the case of fornication - whatever that is, and we'll leave that for another time perhaps - but Mark gives the saying in its starkest form, Mark does not give an exception clause, and this is to Gentiles! Perhaps that was what the Gentile church needed with so much promiscuity, so much immorality, so much looseness and laxness - they needed a certain sound. Now, is that not what the church needs today? Not a whole debate ranging around 'When is it OK to get a divorce and a remarriage?', but to hear the certain sound of what God requires of us when we promise to a partner and promise to Him, giving our word that we will be faithful - what it means to break that, what the requirements are upon the child of God in the kingdom of Christ.
You see the radical nature of the teaching of the Lord Jesus, because you know, in effect, what He was doing was: He was closing the legal loopholes that the rabbis had found in the law of Moses. Even the fall, the Lord Jesus is indicating, did not change this creative ideal. You were permitted to divorce by Moses because of the hardness of your heart, but it did not change God's desires. The first arrangement was for it to be an indissoluble union, verses 8 and 9: 'They twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder'. Divorce may be legal according to the laws of our land, and yet not right in the eyes of the God of heaven. The Lord is saying that in His kingdom He expects married people to practise commitment to each other - verse 7: 'For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife' - commitment and remaining true to each other. Too many Christians now view divorce as a way out, and even go into marriage thinking: 'Well, if it doesn't work there is a backdoor, there's a fire escape' - and they don't, therefore, take their vows seriously as they commit to each other and enter into a covenant, not just with each other, but with the Lord Himself.
Sadly, like the world, many Christians, many of us - for us, self-fulfilment has become the rule of thumb: what we want, what we desire. We grow tired of a person or a situation, and selfishly we just want to move on. Now, of course, don't misunderstand me: God wants us to have life to the full, He promised us that in the Lord Jesus - but that is accomplished not through self-fulfilment, but through death to ourselves and surrender to Christ. It is the way of the cross, it is the way of this gospel, it is the way of the kingdom! The great challenge to us today is: how does the cross affect my marriage? How does the cross affect my marriage problems?
But it would be wrong of us to stop there, as it would be wrong of any married couple to stop there, thinking of their relationship and ignoring that often there are other parties involved in a divorce and remarriage, and that is the children. Think of the children! I'm not saying this is directly related in the mind of our Lord to what He now goes on to speak of, but it may well have been - and it certainly is practically relevant to our contemporary situation. Oh, He would say to us believers, and nonbelievers who are contemplating divorce: 'Think of the children!'.
Now, it's wonderful to see what the Lord Jesus has to say about children. There are those who say: 'Ach, little children are too young to be brought to Christ, to be converted. They don't understand enough' - and yet here we see the Lord inviting children to come to Him. 'Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God', He invites children to come to Him. Is there a child listening to me this morning? You can come to Jesus just as you are, admitting your sin, your weakness, and your need of a Saviour. Not only does He invite children, He encourages parents to bring them - because, after all, it was parents who were bringing them to the Lord Jesus to be touched. If there was a survey taken today, it would seem very clear that most of us who are converted were saved as children, because children are ideal converts. Not, as some suppose, because they are gullible and susceptible to brainwashing, but their simplicity of faith that the Lord Jesus actually enshrines as an example for us to strive after! What a truth of God's kingdom this is, seen in the child who receives God's word simply and trusts God - and that's why they can so readily enter into God's kingdom.
But here we see one of the very few occasions where Mark records that Jesus was effectively indignant. He was displeased. It's interesting to see the cause why He was so displeased. The servants of Christ were too busy to minister among children. Right away my own heart is pricked here, because we who serve the Lord, and are busily serving - and remember there was no busier servant than the Servant of Jehovah here in Mark's gospel - but He was never too busy for the vitally important ministry of meeting the children's needs. May I say this, and I speak to my own heart: if you're involved in Christian service, never ignore the children - and especially not your own!
But there is a solemn warning here to any, the Lord is saying it: 'Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein'. He warned of putting a stumbling block before their inexperienced feet. There might not be a greater stumbling block before the feet of young children today than divorce, and the fallout from it that pours into their adolescence, young adulthood, and their own relationships and development. But isn't it wonderful, isn't it wonderful the picture that we're left with in verse 16 of our Lord Jesus: He turns from that stern indignation towards the disciples, and it says He took up these children 'in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them'. It's one of the most graphic expressions of the compassion and the tenderness of the Servant of the Lord that we find. He took them, the little children, up in His arms and blessed them.
For our brokenness in marriage, or remarriage, or whatever situation we find ourselves in; for our brokenness as children, or adults, or older people - there is the tender compassion and graciousness of the Lord Jesus, who would take us up in His arms and touch us. Thank God for that! I can't help thinking that this incident is a throwback to the beautiful words of the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 40:11, where it says of our Lord Jesus prophetically: 'He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young'. There are some wonderful children's hymns, one goes:
'There's a Friend for little children,
Above the bright, blue sky,
A Friend who never changes,
Whose love will never die;
Unlike our friends by nature,
Who change with changing years,
This Friend is always worthy
The precious Name He bears'.
Is there a child listening to me, or an older grown-up child who has been affected by a marriage breakup - and it has left scars upon you? It is beginning to reproduce, perhaps, in ways in your own relationships. Listen: there is healing for this, there is help, there is salvation - but it's all in this Friend who never changes, whilst others change towards you. Maybe their love grew cold, or was overtaken by other passions in their hate and their resentment towards their wife or husband? But there is a love that never dies, unlike our friends by nature who change with changing years, this Friend is always worthy, the precious Name He bears.
For our brokenness - whether as husbands, wives or children - in this fallen, sinful, wayward world, there is always an answer. There is always the Lord Jesus, there is always His compassion, there is always His healing - for this, we have Jesus, bless His name. But isn't it good that not only do we have His compassion, but we have His clarity. In the confusion of our world, His concern is the sanctity of marriage and the security of the children. I ask you the question: should that not be our concern also? May God bless His word to all of you who listen, and may it make a change and a difference in all of our lives. Amen.
Let us pray: Father, we just thank You now for the words of our Lord Jesus Christ again. Words that are so piercing, and we, like the twelve, are astounded and say: 'This is a hard saying'. We know our own weaknesses, You see, Lord, and we know that You see them more accurately than we could ever do. Oh, we pray that You will forgive us for our shortcomings in marriage, for our unfaithfulness not only of actions but of mind and heart. Lord, we pray that You will make us better husbands, better wives, better parents, better children. Oh God, we ask that the difference that the power of God residing in us through the Holy Spirit, the difference that that makes would be evidenced in our everyday lives and our relationships. Lord, surely the cross, the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ must have an effect for good on our deepest and most intimate relationships. Lord, all of us have failed You, and all of us have messed up. Let us not receive condemnation from the devil for that, for there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus - but Lord, let us repent of that which is sin, and under which we have come in conviction, that we might turn and repent, Lord, that we might no longer have condemnation as we walk in the light is He is in the light, and seek to live the life that is holy before God. Lord, help those who are hurting - O, I don't want in any way to underestimate or to exacerbate any hurt, but rather I would long that the oil of Christ's healing would be poured into their wounds, and that they would find restoration and salvation through the Lord Jesus, His grace, the cleansing of His blood, the healing that the Holy Spirit brings as He dwells in the heart, and as His fruit is manifest in our lives. Lord, let that be the case, and let no one think that there's no way back; let no one think that there's no way out; let no one think that they're finished and discarded and no use for God, perhaps because of mistakes in their life. But let us all, Lord, whoever we are, continually come in brokenness to the cross, that we might again be made whole and made useful for the Master. Hear our prayer we pray, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the forty-fourth recording in his 'Studies In Mark' series, entitled "The Sanctity of Marriage and The Security of Children" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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